|Japanese politicians, liberals and conservatives alike, have finally begun to show their true colors by denying the country’s historical wrongdoings.
None other than Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda himself insisted Monday that there is no evidence Japan forcibly mobilized Korean women for sexual enslavement during World War II.
This is as astonishing as disappointing because a few years ago, his Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), then a relatively liberal opposition, called for the Cabinet led by conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to admit and apologize for what they called the “comfort women” issue.
Little wonder the right-wing LDP went one step further. Rep. Shinzo Abe, who was prime minister from 2006-07, said if he becomes Japan’s leader again, he would scrap all major statements issued by his predecessors that apologized for wartime crimes and atrocities. Koreans might hope all this is just a pre-election show of competitive nationalism.
Unfortunately, it seems that is not the case. Even if it is true, politicians not just lead public opinion but also reflect popular sentiment. Japan, hit by a prolonged slump, natural disasters and resurgent neighbors is gripped by national depression and seeking an exit in very dangerous ways _ regressive self-justification or the denial of its former self. It will not only threaten regional stability but Japan’s own future.
None shows this better than Abe, whose grandfather was one of Japan’s wartime Cabinet ministers. Abe and other postwar-generation politicians leading the island nation now seem to have little sense of guilt for their ancestors’ wrongdoings, a result of the Japanese education system, which highlighted their sufferings from atomic bombing while downplaying the war crimes and damages inflicted on Asian neighbors by their Imperial Army.
One can seldom shake off the ominous image that one generation further down the road, children of the current Japanese establishment could go back a full century and try to start Japan’s imperial moves all over again.
Only the world and its neighbors are not the same as they were in the early 20th century. China and Korea are no longer the easy prey they were before the Japanese militarists, and the world knows what Japan did before and during World War II, including the heinous crime against humanity of “enforced sexual slavery,” the correct term for the comfort women as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton clearly pointed out recently.
If the Japanese politicians need evidence, there are plenty in the “sex slaves museum” in Korea, which show how the Japanese officials cajoled and coerced innocent Korean girls into the abhorrent service. All they have is to accept invitations from about 60 former sex slaves alive and visit Korea.
The world, especially Japan’s Asian neighbors, will be watching Tokyo’s shameless revivalism with pity, not fear. Japan is increasingly becoming like the Galapagos Islands in historical perception and foreign relationship. In the Pacific archipelago isolated from the rest of the world, some species can maintain their “uniqueness” for long without the existence of natural enemies but are now in danger of extinction.
Unless Japanese leaders restore their reasoning and conscience, their country’s future generations will not be able to avoid becoming endangered species, either.
8월 30일 (목) The Korea Times 사설